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5 Australian Cars That Will Never Land in the United States

Holden Ute SS
The Holden Ute SS (really, it is not a photoshopped El Camino)

Not only is Australia on the other side of the world, and as I write this at 6:51PM here and it is 8:21AM there, tomorrow, Australian cars are of a different time zone as well. While Ford exists there and carries a few of the same cars we see here such as the Fiesta and Focus, the only Mustang you will see is one that someone has brought over from the United States and treats better than their own children. Chevrolet exists as Holden and carries a few of the familiar names we have here such as the Cruze and the Colorado pickup. There is no Corvette or Camaro, but a very interesting Ute (I will explain what a Ute shortly) that is equipped with the same 6.2-liter V8 as our muscle cars, but in a very different package. What is a Ute you may ask? Ford and Holden both make one in Australia and Ford’s is akin to the Ranchero half-pickup half-car of days of old and Holden’s is a distant relative of what was known as the El Camino. While these are all but instinct in the U.S., the Ute is extremely popular in the “land down under”.

"Mad Max" 1979
While entertaining, this is NOT the true Australia, “Mad Max” circa 1979

Another difference in Australian cars is that most are “tuned” once they arrive at dealerships all over the country. Their suspension is altered to handle the varying terrain, the exhaust systems are altered to remove some of the noise deadening qualities and other small tweaks are done to make sure they run their best in the sometimes harsh environment. Above all, there seems to be an equal amount of performance cars and economy cars. While some Australian cars share a manufacturer, such as GM or Ford, chances are they are more like the black sheep of the family twin sibling than what we are familiar with in the United States. Diesel power is another much more common feature of Australian cars, while diesel is more expensive here than gasoline, Australians pay much less for diesel fuel than they do for gasoline, and have much more lenient emissions standards. And before you light your gas grill, keep reading. . .

Holden Cruze Review

2013 Holden Cruze
The 2013 Holden Cruze

The Holden Cruze was designed in Germany, first built in Korea, rethought in Melbourne, Australia and is now made in Adelaide, Australia with Korean and Austrian engines. If this is not an example of GM having the whole world in their hands, I do not know what is. The first Adelaide-built Cruze got a little bit of Aussie influence. Unlike the American Cruze, which is only available with a choice of two gasoline engines, the 1.4 and 1.8-liter, the Holden Cruze is equipped with a choice of three. It is available with the same 1.4 and 1.8-liter four-cylinder ECOTECs found in U.S. models, but there is also the choice of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel. Trim levels are the CD, the CDX, SRi and SRi-V. All but the CDX version are also available in a hatch version as well as the typical four-door sedan available here.

Aside from the engines and nameplates, the Australian Cruze and the American Cruze are very similar; other features are typically the same in both countries such as cruise control, power windows, choice of wheel-size and so forth. Again, these vehicles are subject to suspension tuning that allows them to handle properly on the roadways, depending on what part of Australia the vehicle is purchased. While Australia works off the dollar system, it is quite different economy there than it is here. For example, a base Cruze in the U.S. will set you back about $16,800 to start, while in Australia the same base Holden Cruze will set you back about $21,000.

Holden Captiva Review

2013 holden captiva
2013 Holden Captiva

The Holden Captiva 5 and 7, (the number denotation of the Captiva represent the number of seats, or passenger room, in each vehicle), are distant relatives of the Chevrolet Equinox we have in the U.S. Launched in 2006, the 2012 version is all new and designed to directly compete with the Ford Territory, which is Australia’s Ford Escape clone. They intend to win the challenge early by not only releasing the new Captiva range before the Territory, but also having more performance with the new to Australia 2.4-liter petrol (gas) engine. They also plan to offer more extra features and a lower price than last year’s Captiva. While there are only two basic ranges of the Captiva, the Captiva 5 will be available with three engine choices and the Captiva 7 will be available in three grades, the SX, CX, and LX with six engine and transmission combinations. The Captiva 5 will be available in a 2WD 2.4-liter petrol (gas) manual transmission, an AWD 2.4-liter petrol (gas) automatic transmission and an AWD 2.2-liter turbo diesel automatic.  The Captiva 7 SX will be available with a 2WD 2.4-liter petrol (gas) or 2WD 2.2-liter turbo diesel, both equipped with the 6spd automatic transmission. The CX and LX are only available in AWD with a 6spd automatic transmission, but give the buyer a choice of a 3.0-liter petrol (gas) or the 2.2-liter turbo diesel.

The look of the Captiva has been updated but Holden has been careful not to disrupt the beloved functionality of the interior and has not changed that at all. Six airbags are now standard as well to increase the safety features in the Captiva. They will all also feature and MP3 CD audio system with Bluetooth as a standard feature, and the LX will come standard with a rearview camera system, 7-in multi-function touch screen and satellite navigation. Front and rear park assist will also be a new feature on some models and option on others. While the Holden is similar to the vehicle Chevrolet builds for American consumers, the popularity and the need for the diesel engines is something that seems unlikely in the U.S. The Captiva, much like almost every vehicle in Australia is tuned for the environment they will inhabit. If you are in Australia and decide you have to have one, the Holden Captiva 5 will start at around $28,000 in Australian funds and the Captiva 7 will start around $34,000.

Holden Commodore LPG Review

Holden Commodore LPG
The Holden Commodore Omega, Berlina and luxury SV6 LPG series

Yes, the LPG stands for liquefied petroleum gas, the same stuff that is in the tank out in your yard if you live in rural areas. Leave it to the Australian’s to have a vehicle that runs on the same stuff we grill steaks on here and a whole comedy cartoon, “King of the Hill” centers around, propane and propane accessories. When Hank Hill was talking about propane accessories, I am sure a Holden Commodore was not one of them. This is also not something brand new, as it has previously been the “dual-fuel” in the dual-fuel system in previous models of the Commodore Omega, Berlina as well as the Commodore Ute in the Omega model grade. For American readers who are completely confused, there will be illustrations, as you are probably envisioning a vehicle with a propane tank strapped to it like rockets! This worlds-first local engineering is attached to a 3.6-liter DOHC V6 engine. Widening the availability of the LPG engine from just the vehicles most commonly used as fleet vehicles, allows even those that want a performance Commodore, like the SV6, an environmentally friendly option. LPG pumps are offered at over 50 percent of all service stations in Australia, so there is no worry about filling up when the fuel gauge starts nearing “E”.

2013 Holden Ute LPG
2013 Holden Commodore UTE Omega LPG

With the availability of the LPG engine across the Commodore range, it is now available in the Commodore Omega, Berlina and SV6 sedans, the Commodore Ute (see above) Omega and SV6, and the luxury Caprice. The addition of pressurized gas has not affected the safety rating of the Commodore either as the LPG versions received the ANCAP five-star (highest) rating as well. The ANCAP is the Australian version of our IIHS. To entice buyers, Holden is even offering the popular Caprice in the LPG version, at the same price as the petrol (gas) version of about $62,000. For every other vehicle, the LPG system adds roughly $2,500 to the price of any of the available models, but those who are not buying the vehicles for fleet or commercial purposes can take advantage of a $2,000 rebate from the government. With an average combined mpg of 22 for the 3.6-liter V6 running on LPG, you still get the power of a bigger engine, but almost eliminate emissions and still get acceptable gas mileage. Again, these are all tuned by the dealer for their specific region to make sure they are suitable for their terrain and environment.

Ford Falcon Review

2013 ford falcon ecoboost
2013 Ford Falcon EcoBoost

When an American hears the name Ford Falcon, if they are old enough, it takes them back to the classic cars built between 1960 and 1970, which were replaced in the 70s by the Maverick. The 70s is when the need for more fuel-efficient cars became necessary during the gas crisis. In Australia, they are a completely different vehicle, not even remotely related to the Falcon of the old days. However, it is known as Australia’s original muscle car. The Australian Falcon will hold the title for the world’s first rear-wheel drive vehicle with the new 2.0-liter four-cylinder GTDi EcoBoost engine, producing 240hp while still providing an average 29 mpg. While Australians used to follow the American philosophy of “there is no replacement for displacement”, new technology is providing them with all the power, with less bulk, something that they are adapting to very quickly.

falcon FPV
The Ford Falcon FPV GT

The EcoBoost Ford Falcon will be available in three model ranges, the XT, G6 (not to be confused with the one produced by the now deceased Pontiac), and the G6E. For those who are not quite ready for the new technology of an EcoBoost, other engine options are a 4.0-liter petrol (gas) inline 6 and an EcoLPi (yes another propane powered Aussie vehicle) inline 6. The variations in the ranges comes more from options than anything else, with all three having the same options in engine choice. For those that still want their performance, the original muscle car does not disappoint. While we have the Mustang GT here, the GT nameplate is worn by the Falcon in Australia. It is reserved for the FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) that are powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that while similar to the “Coyote” engine seen in the Mustang GT here, has been “substantially modified” to provide Australians with the power they ask for. This Australian 5.0-liter supercharged DOHC V8 produces around 450hp and can give any Aussie the true “muscle car” experience.

Toyota 86 Review

Toyota GT 86
Toyota 86 GT

The Toyota 86, which in previous rumors was called the FT-86 among other names, is making Australians think differently about Toyota. This is one of the first true sports cars that Toyota has released in quite a few years, and Australia was one of the lucky countries to get them. The starting price of $29,900 in Australian money is an unheard of price for anything remotely resembling a sports car. To put it into perspective, the tiny Hyundai Accent with a diesel engine will cost you close to $27,000, now should there even be a decision on which one to buy? While you may be thinking it looks familiar, yes the Scion FR-S resembles the 86, which was built as a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru with its BRZ. As far as the 86, how can you go wrong with a car with unique headrests that can be reversed to allow for a helmet. If the Toyota quality, low price and unique features of this sports car do not make you want to move to Australia just to own one, you might want to check your pulse. For those that thought the sports car producing capabilities of Toyota died with the Supra in the U.S. and Celica GT in Australia, it is time to take a second look.

The Toyota 86, like its cousins the BRZ and FR-S also features a four-cylinder naturally aspirated, horizontally opposed, Boxer engine. While this may not sound like a powerhouse, it is capable of producing 200hp in a vehicle that is small, stocky and agile at just 2,600lbs. There is a 6spd automatic transmission available, but obviously, to maintain the 86’s entire sports car feel, the 6spd manual transmission is necessary. The 86 is available in the GT and GTS, both equipped with the same engine. While the GTS offers a few more creature comforts, if you are just looking for an inexpensive sports car that you can personalize yourself, the GT is the best choice. While the 86 is not set up for racing coming from the factory, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is ready, willing and able to turn your 86 into the ultimate low-cost sports car. While you may be jealous that Toyota is bringing back their performance side somewhere other than the U.S., we can still hold on to rumors of the Supra reappearing in the U.S. in the next few years. Based on the popularity of the 86, Toyota would have a second winner on its hands reviving the Supra for the American market.

So, are you ready to relinquish your American citizenship and hop the first plane to Australia?

australian flag
This is the Australian flag, in case you were unaware

Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them, but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. I founded GearHeads.org and then built and ran AutoWise.com until selling it to Lola Digital Media in 2020. I look forward to watching AutoWise grow as part of the AllGear group.